Knuckler: My Life with Baseball's Most Confounding Pitch

Knuckler: My Life with Baseball's Most Confounding Pitch

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“A terrific book about one of baseball’s most underrated pitchers, not to mention baseball’s most misunderstood pitch.” – Stephen KingTim Wakefield is an enigma. At forty-four years old, he is the longest-serving member of one of baseball’s most popular franchises. He has pitched more games than any other player in Red Sox history, and in 2011 he reached the milestone of 200 career victories. Yet few realize the full measure of his success. In fact, that his career can be characterized by such words as longevity and consistency defies all odds, because he has achieved all of this with the game’s most mercurial weapon—the knuckleball. Knuckler is the story of how a struggling position player risked his future on a fickle pitch that would eventually define his career, making him one of the most respected players in the game. It is also a lively and entertaining meditation on the dancing pitch, its history, its mechanics, its mystique, and the inevitable ironies it brings to bear. “This book is about resiliency, diligence, and the tunnel vision required to live by what appears to be the most fanciful pitch thrown by man.” – Peter Gammons, MLB analyst“Knuckler gives readers a rare glimpse of the man behind the baseball and his remarkable work on and off the field.” – Carlton Fisk, Hall of Fame catcher

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  • Format: Paperback

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547750347

  • ISBN-10: 054775034X

  • Pages: 304

  • Price: $14.95

  • Publication Date: 03/06/2012

  • Carton Quantity: 24

Tim Wakefield
Author

Tim Wakefield

TIM WAKEFIELD has pitched for the Red Sox since 1995 and has won two World Series. Noted for his charitable contributions off the field, he has been nominated seven times for the Roberto Clemente Award.
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Tony Massarotti
With

Tony Massarotti

TONY MASSAROTTI is a nationally recognized sports columnist and the author of the New York Times Bestseller Big Papi (with David Ortiz).
Learn More
  • reviews

    "An incredibly intelligent, self-aware glimpse inside an admirable career. The preseason pick for best baseball book of the season." –Booklist (starred review)

    "A must-read." — Boston Globe "A must-read." — Boston Globe "A must-read." — Boston Globe "A must-read." — Boston Globe "A must-read." — Boston Globe

    Knuckler is a terrific book about one of baseball's most underrated pitchers, not to mention baseball's most misunderstood pitch. There are wonderful stories and anecdotes here, but it's also a portrait of a humble, caring man who has carved out a special niche for himself. If you love baseball (not just Red Sox baseball), Knuckler is for you. If you don't care a hang about baseball, but like stories about exceptionally talented people behaving decently, Knuckler is also for you. And if you're sick to death of sports stories about athletes behaving badly, Tim Wakefield's book is the perfect antidote.” –Stephen King "A must-read." — Boston Globe

    Knuckler is a terrific book about one of baseball's most underrated pitchers, not to mention baseball's most misunderstood pitch. There are wonderful stories and anecdotes here, but it's also a portrait of a humble, caring man who has carved out a special niche for himself. If you love baseball (not just Red Sox baseball), Knuckler is for you. If you don't care a hang about baseball, but like stories about exceptionally talented people behaving decently, Knuckler is also for you. And if you're sick to death of sports stories about athletes behaving badly, Tim Wakefield's book is the perfect antidote.” –Stephen King

    "A must-read." — Boston Globe

    Knuckler is a terrific book about one of baseball's most underrated pitchers, not to mention baseball's most misunderstood pitch. There are wonderful stories and anecdotes here, but it's also a portrait of a humble, caring man who has carved out a special niche for himself. If you love baseball (not just Red Sox baseball), Knuckler is for you. If you don't care a hang about baseball, but like stories about exceptionally talented people behaving decently, Knuckler is also for you. And if you're sick to death of sports stories about athletes behaving badly, Tim Wakefield's book is the perfect antidote.” –Stephen King

    “To read Knuckler is to appreciate that there is no gimmick, no fluke, no chance to Tim Wakefield approaching 200 wins and 20 major league seasons. This book is about resiliency, diligence and the tunnel vision required to live by what appears to be the most fanciful pitch thrown by man." –Peter Gammons, MLB baseball analyst and member of the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame "A must-read." — Boston Globe

    Knuckler is a terrific book about one of baseball's most underrated pitchers, not to mention baseball's most misunderstood pitch. There are wonderful stories and anecdotes here, but it's also a portrait of a humble, caring man who has carved out a special niche for himself. If you love baseball (not just Red Sox baseball), Knuckler is for you. If you don't care a hang about baseball, but like stories about exceptionally talented people behaving decently, Knuckler is also for you. And if you're sick to death of sports stories about athletes behaving badly, Tim Wakefield's book is the perfect antidote.” –Stephen King

    “To read Knuckler is to appreciate that there is no gimmick, no fluke, no chance to Tim Wakefield approaching 200 wins and 20 major league seasons. This book is about resiliency, diligence and the tunnel vision required to live by what appears to be the most fanciful pitch thrown by man." –Peter Gammons, MLB baseball analyst and member of the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame

    "A must-read." — Boston Globe

    Knuckler is a terrific book about one of baseball's most underrated pitchers, not to mention baseball's most misunderstood pitch. There are wonderful stories and anecdotes here, but it's also a portrait of a humble, caring man who has carved out a special niche for himself. If you love baseball (not just Red Sox baseball), Knuckler is for you. If you don't care a hang about baseball, but like stories about exceptionally talented people behaving decently, Knuckler is also for you. And if you're sick to death of sports stories about athletes behaving badly, Tim Wakefield's book is the perfect antidote.” –Stephen King

    “To read Knuckler is to appreciate that there is no gimmick, no fluke, no chance to Tim Wakefield approaching 200 wins and 20 major league seasons. This book is about resiliency, diligence and the tunnel vision required to live by what appears to be the most fanciful pitch thrown by man." –Peter Gammons, MLB baseball analyst and member of the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame

    "Tim Wakefield’s Knuckler is a fastball right down the middle of the plate. It is an honest, straightforward and very enjoyable account of the national pastime.”  –Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Commissioner of Baseball "A must-read." — Boston Globe

    Knuckler is a terrific book about one of baseball's most underrated pitchers, not to mention baseball's most misunderstood pitch. There are wonderful stories and anecdotes here, but it's also a portrait of a humble, caring man who has carved out a special niche for himself. If you love baseball (not just Red Sox baseball), Knuckler is for you. If you don't care a hang about baseball, but like stories about exceptionally talented people behaving decently, Knuckler is also for you. And if you're sick to death of sports stories about athletes behaving badly, Tim Wakefield's book is the perfect antidote.” –Stephen King

    “To read Knuckler is to appreciate that there is no gimmick, no fluke, no chance to Tim Wakefield approaching 200 wins and 20 major league seasons. This book is about resiliency, diligence and the tunnel vision required to live by what appears to be the most fanciful pitch thrown by man." –Peter Gammons, MLB baseball analyst and member of the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame

    "Tim Wakefield’s Knuckler is a fastball right down the middle of the plate. It is an honest, straightforward and very enjoyable account of the national pastime.”  –Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Commissioner of Baseball

    "A must-read." — Boston Globe

    Knuckler is a terrific book about one of baseball's most underrated pitchers, not to mention baseball's most misunderstood pitch. There are wonderful stories and anecdotes here, but it's also a portrait of a humble, caring man who has carved out a special niche for himself. If you love baseball (not just Red Sox baseball), Knuckler is for you. If you don't care a hang about baseball, but like stories about exceptionally talented people behaving decently, Knuckler is also for you. And if you're sick to death of sports stories about athletes behaving badly, Tim Wakefield's book is the perfect antidote.” –Stephen King

    “To read Knuckler is to appreciate that there is no gimmick, no fluke, no chance to Tim Wakefield approaching 200 wins and 20 major league seasons. This book is about resiliency, diligence and the tunnel vision required to live by what appears to be the most fanciful pitch thrown by man." –Peter Gammons, MLB baseball analyst and member of the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame

    "Tim Wakefield’s Knuckler is a fastball right down the middle of the plate. It is an honest, strai...

  • excerpts

    Introduction

    The knuckleball, I know, is a big part of the story. It’s a

    big part of who I am. But I’ve never really thought of myself as

    being different, not really, not in comparison to other pitchers

    and certainly not in comparison to the people who come watch us

    play.

     What I am, I believe, is someone who got a bunch of second chances

    and took advantage of them, who persevered through adversity. I hope

    that comes through as much as anything else in this book. I think there

    are lessons in that for all of us. I know there were for me.

     People look at the knuckleball differently than they do other

    pitches — they’re fascinated by it. I understand why. People have asked

    me all kinds of questions about the knuckleball over the years — how

    I grip it, why it does what it does, whether I ever get frustrated by it.

    That last question is one I’ve always found interesting, because people

    sometimes talk about it as if it were a person, as if I had a relationship

    with it. No one would ever ask Pedro Martinez about his changeup or

    Josh Beckett about his curveball the same way they ask me about my

    knuckleball, but I also understand there are differences. If one pitch

    isn’t working for those guys, they can try something else. I really can’t.

    For roughly 20 years as a professional pitcher, I’ve thrown the knuckleball

    on almost every pitch. It’s worked for me most of the time. When

    it hasn’t, I’ve simply chalked it up to the balancing forces of baseball,

    the way any pitcher would.

     I don’t resent the knuckleball. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I love

    the knuckleball. It has given me a long career to be proud of and provided

    for my wife, Stacy, and two children, Trevor and Brianna. It’s

    allowed me to meet people I might never have met, experience things

    I might never have been able to experience, and help people in ways I

    might never have been able to help.

     Before I joined the Red Sox in 1995, I thought my career might be

    over. I was still learning about the knuckleball, and I knew almost

    nothing about Boston or about the Red Sox other than what I had

    learned from one of my college roommates, Tom Krystock, who was a

    Red Sox fan. Tom was from Connecticut and convinced me to go with

    him to Fenway Park, where we took in a handful of games. I never

    imagined then that Boston and Fenway would become my home,

    that I would pitch in nearly 300 games there and be part of two world

    championship teams. And I never imagined that Boston would accept

    me the way it has, that the people there would welcome me as part

    of their community, that Boston would be as much a home to me as

    Melbourne, Florida, where I grew up and played college baseball.

     Sometime during my career in Boston — I can’t remember exactly

    when — someone asked one of my teammates, Derek Lowe, about

    what it was like to pitch at Fenway Park. What made Fenway different?

    Derek told them that when he pitched in other, bigger stadiums,

    he would look into the stands and see colors. But at Fenway, when he

    stood on the mound, he would look into the crowd and see faces. I always

    thought that was a great way to describe how special it is to pitch

    at Fenway Park, for the Red Sox and for their fans. The experience

    is just more intimate. To me, Boston always has felt like a neighborhood

    more than a city, the kind of place, like Cheers, where everybody

    knows your name and you know theirs. It’s one of the things I love

    most about playing there. People talk about “Red Sox Nation” all the

    time now, but it really is true. To me, the Red Sox and their fans are

    a community unlike any other in sports, and I’ve been blessed to be a

    part of it. I’ve invested in Boston during my time there, and I feel like

    Boston has invested in me.

     In that way, especially, I’ve been very fortunate. Over the course of

    baseball history, other knuckleballers have had their own communities

    too. Hoyt Wilhelm. Phil and Joe Niekro. Wilbur Wood. Charlie

    Hough and Tom Candiotti. The list goes on. I’ve had the chance to

    meet most of those guys and to talk to them about the knuckler, to

    share an experience that has made us some of the most unique pitchers

    in baseball history. The knuckleball has taken us all through some

    unpredictable dips and turns, but we all owe everything we’ve accomplished

    to a pitch that, to me, is unlike any other in baseball.

     I hope this book gives you some idea as to what it has been like to

    live with the knuckleball for the last 20 years or so.

     And I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I have.

    Tim Wakefield

    Autumn 2010

    Knuckler

    One

    He’s so consistent with a pitch that’s not consistent. You look

    up in the sixth or seventh inning and he’s got a chance to win.

    —Red Sox manager Terry Francona speaking

    about Tim Wakefield, March 2010

    On June 8, 2010, with one out in the seventh inning of

    his 538th career appearance with the Boston Red Sox, Tim

    Wakefield familiarly stood on the pitcher’s mound, glove

    resting near his lefthip, right arm comfortably hanging at his side, as

    he peered in toward home plate. He was already behind in the count,

    two balls and no strikes. As Indians slugger Russell Branyan settled into

    the batter’s box at Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland, Wakefield

    eased back and spun on his right foot, reaching into his glove for the

    pitch that would soon make him the all-time innings leader in Red

    Sox history, an achievement far more commendable than most anyone

    would care to acknowledge.

     A knuckleball? No, no, no — not in this case — and perhaps there is

    a good measure of irony in that. In recording the 8,329th out of his 16-

    year Red Sox career — more outs than any other pitcher in the history

    of a storied franchise — Wakefield threw a fastball clocked at 73 miles

    per hour, inducing a pop-up that safely landed in the glove of teammate

    and shortstop Marco Scutaro. That was it. That was the instant when

    Wakefield reached precisely 2,776⅓ innings, literally a fraction more

    than the 2,776 recorded by longtime Red Sox ace Roger Clemens, adding further accomplishment to a workmanlike career during which his

    most significant contributions had often been disguised and one in

    which he had negotiated and endured the whims, eccentricities, and

    unpredictable dips and turns of baseball’s most maddening, mystifying,

    and unpredictable pitch.

     Even against Branyan, after all, Wakefield had to work around the

    knuckleball as much as he relied on it, resorting to his oxymoronic

    fastball, which barely qualified for a speeding ticket, to record the out

    that distinguished him from every other pitcher who had worn the

    Boston uniform — from Clemens to Cy Young to Curt Schilling, Pedro

    Martinez, Babe Ruth, and beyond.

     “He’s a very unassuming guy, but he’s been the glue that’s held that

    pitching stafftogether for a long time. That’s a fact,” said former Red

    Sox general manager Dan Duquette, who brought Wakefield to Boston

    in 1995, when the pitcher’s career seemed to be in ruins. “He’s the consummate

    organization man. He was always available to the team. He

    made a huge contribution to the team and to the community.”

    For Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, who inherited Wakefield

    upon taking over the Red Sox GM ...

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: Paperback

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547750347

  • ISBN-10: 054775034X

  • Pages: 304

  • Price: $14.95

  • Publication Date: 03/06/2012

  • Carton Quantity: 24

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